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Old April 19th, 2002, 05:34 PM   #1
osiasencarnacion
 
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Newbie facing stage shoot

I just got my Canon XL1s after spending a year with my Sony DCR-TRV30 (prosumer). I'm shooting a dance production in a week and would like an experienced XL1s shooter's recommendation. I don't know much about the theater, other than its got a stage and some lights. I don't know how much the lighting tech will do nor is there a rehearsal! I know that autofocus/exposure on moving people in low lights can lead to a constantly focusing/changing camera but I'm not comfortable with handling the manual side of my new Canon XL1s. I also purchased the Nubtek 5" LCD manual but my Varizoom LANC is on two week backorder.

Should I dive in and learn the manual controls? the XL1s will be pretty much set on one focal length to grab the entire stage since my Sony will be used to capture cutaways. Will the auto focus/exposure of the XL1s handle most of the production?
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Old April 19th, 2002, 05:49 PM   #2
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From whom did your order your VariZoom controller? Having it for your shoot will make a big difference. I know plenty of vendors who can get one to you within a day or two.
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Old April 19th, 2002, 05:51 PM   #3
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I do LOTS of stage and theater work. I've probably made every mistake possible, so these comments are based on some of those. I also transitioned from a Sony Hi-8, & D-8 to the XL-1. At first, it's intimidating.

Running manual is an absolute must! Turn off autofocus and exposure. The range of contrasts is as bad as you can get, typically with white faces and black costumes. Turn on the zebra stripes -- I usually go for the faces, and let the rest take care of itself, unless doing a master (very wide) shot.

An external LCD monitor is highly useful, and a Varizoom or the Canon remote controller will make manual operation much easier. You'll still need to observe the viewfinder for zebras. When zooming in, I typically hold the focus override button --using the servo ring is next to worthless.

This is all much more manageable on sticks -- if operating from the shoulder, it'll probably overwhelm you at first. Just simulate your shoot and get used to the manual settings -- they're easier to master than you might imagine.
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Old April 19th, 2002, 10:38 PM   #4
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shoot with xl1s

just a thought but if you still have your sony, have them put on their lights, so you know how it looks and then set it on sticks for a wide shot of the stage performance area that you like. Turn your audio to low, (u can raise it later in post) and use that as your backup, anytime you dont like the shot or if you do moves you can cover with the wide shot. and use manual on your canon much better results....

have fun

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Old April 21st, 2002, 01:20 AM   #5
osiasencarnacion
 
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Chris, I used ZGC. They were able to deliver on all the other parts but said the manufactorer was backed logged by up to two weeks. If you have another source you would recommend, I would appreciate it! Overall I was satisfied with Christine B and ZGC. I had confidence that my equipment was going to arrive soon afterwards. The shipment went out that day I ordered it. She was out of both the Varizoom controller and Varizoom TFT. She talked me into the Nubtek. I was planning on posting my first impressions on the Nubtek.

Thanks everyone for your input! I trial ran the XL1s for the first time today and yes, it wasn't as complex as I thought. Zebras, the focus override, etc. I haven't dealt with before, but will be practicing with them up until the show.

For those that have shot live stage before, what did you do to capture the sound? two shotguns near stage mixed and brought into audio 2? I will be overdubbing most of the performance but there are a couple of "live" performances. I don't have the equipment to do this yet but have a possible upcoming performance that I might get to shoot as well.
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Old April 21st, 2002, 11:12 AM   #6
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Audio is a major subject onto itself. I've tried various options and some have worked better than others. In most cases, casts are not well behaved and and you'll deal with a large dynamic range. I've found that running the audio directly into the camera and using manual gain was the least effective. One too many things to worry about. (Overdriving in digital results in massive distortion.)My best results have come when feeding the various audio sources (shotgun mics, PZR mics, house feeds, etc.) into a Mackie mixer and then into the camera. Unless you need the on-camera mic for ambient sounds, I'd use Audio-1 at 48KHz. With the mixer set up properly, using auto gain on the Canon has worked well, and allows me to concentrate more on the video controls. With the mixer right at hand, you can tweak as necessary. (Or get a sound guy!) Every theater and stage is different, and what works for one won't work for another. The audio is at *least* as important as the video, so time spent experimenting will be advantageous.

Check Jay Rose's columns and his forum over at dv.com. He's a wealth of info in the audio arena.

As with video, doing trial runs will help you a lot.
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Old April 22nd, 2002, 08:45 AM   #7
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This will be a tiny bit off topic in that it's not really technical . . .

I don't have a lot of experience with DV, but I do have years of experience in the theatre.

My advise is to talk carefully with the producer and/or director and/or stage manager of the show you'll be taping and get a very clear picture of what his/their expectations are about the quality and use of your final product. If they are going to be happy with one long shot from the back of the hall, fine.

But if they want something more cinematic, you will want to make it clear (and they should understand this from their own experience) that it is impossible to shoot most stage productions effectively without careful rehersal. If you are going to try to do the taping live, it's next to impossible to do something cinematic with one camera.

At bare minimum you need to go and see the show at least once and, if possible, following along with the script and/or score to make a shooting plan that follows the story to some degree. The best case is to get the director to sit down and do this with you well in advance with the stage manager's script (which should have all the cues in it).

If you are not doing a live shoot, do anything to get them to give you as much time as possible to work.

Communication is key. Don't assume theatre folk (esp. local or little theatre folk) know anything about video or film making. The two cultures are very different. Find out what they do and don't know and make sure they don't expect the next Citizen Kane. You don't want to be placed in that impossible situation.

Good Luck!
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Old April 22nd, 2002, 01:21 PM   #8
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Peter's advice is worth heeding. A stage production filmed (taped) for production will typically look much different from what a live audience sees. The lights are up, most contrasts and hot spots are mitigated, they scream and whisper less, the action starts-stops as needed, etc. A one camera shoot can be a pretty good archive, but it's not ready for prime time. There is a huge difference in time (and price) between the two versions. Everyone needs to understand that.
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Old April 22nd, 2002, 02:10 PM   #9
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yep

I do cheap 2 cam shooting. Definitely have one cam on the broad shot and next to it the other for the "follow" shots. It's pretty easy to just zoom one cam at a time and it looks like maybe more than two cams were used. A second person who could gently make a couple of moves on the 2nd cam would be great. Just sit next to him and tell him when to go tight/wide. Either he moves or you do.

In post it's line up the two images to an audio bite or a camera flash and then put it together. Back and forth. With 2 cams you'll likely have a good shot to pick from at any given moment.

Seriously test exposure, write it down and follow it on show-night. Off the cuff (for the "follow cam") I'd say -2 on the AE dial if you had to shoot in auto if the background wasn't really well lit or reflective. Probably -1 for the 2nd cam. If you go for the ultra wide shot including the audience, maybe a tad closer to AE. But that's why I say test, test and repeat. You want the two images to look equally (and properly) exposed.

I'd go two mics at strategic locations (maybe close to a speaker?) at 48k. Also the audio from the trv can be used for added fill, too. If I were doing the whole thing myself, I'd definitely go AGC but if I had a helper, I'd CONSIDER going manual.

OOOOOHHHHHH yeah. You should toss the gain to preset amount. Otherwise, even in manual, the auto gain will sometimes mess things up! Start at 0 dB at 1/60th SS , adjust the iris and see if it works, if not try +6dB, etc. I'd recommend zebras at 90-95, not 100, but that's just me.

PS. If you use two cams and the show is over an hour, start one cam 90 sec's before the other. That way, you can stagger tape changes while not losing a shot (have the extra tapes ready and out of the plastic). And if you get the varizoom, watch the finger on the zoom buttons, sometimes you can hit rec/stop by mistake! If so, you better fire another flash to synch up with.
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